On another day when its pledges of moderation were tested, the Taliban cracked down on several protests in eastern Afghanistan and Kabul, killing several.
The Islamic extremist group returned to power on Sunday (15), having conquered the capital 20 years after being ousted by US-led Western forces, who punished it for protecting the terrorists who perpetrated the 11 September.
Since then, fundamentalists have given interviews and repeated statements saying they would not repeat their previous government, from 1996 to 2001, in which they planted a sham of a medieval Islamic caliphate, where there was no rights and where brutality reigned.
As of Wednesday (18), at least three people had already been killed while demonstrating against the Taliban in the city of Jalalabad, 150 km east of Kabul.
This Thursday, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Kabul and other cities to celebrate the traditional Independence Day, in this case the end of British rule in 1919. Carrying the Afghan national flag, they have chanted “Our flag, our identity” and the usual “Allah is the greatest” in the streets.
Reports have so far been confused, but in the events that have taken place they have taken on an air of protest against the new owners of power, who have reacted as they know: shoot. In Asadabad (Kunar, eastern Afghanistan), witnesses told Reuters news agency that there had been a small massacre.
“Hundreds took to the streets. At first I was scared and didn’t want to go, but when I saw my neighbors joining in, I took a flag that I had to home and I went there. Several people died and were injured in the rush and by Taliban fire, “said Mohammed Salim.
There was also confusion in Jalalabad and Khost, another large city in the east, and in Kabul, but no information on the casualties. The Taliban, wanted by news agencies, made no comment.
Even if there are exaggerations, given the difficulty of measuring reality by the local press and the increasingly rare Western journalists in Afghanistan, one thing is certain: the Taliban will face more popular resistance than in his past incarnation.
By 1996, the group had won a bitter civil war that began in 1992, after the turbulent years of Islamic guerrilla rule that emerged victorious from Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1989.
The country was a heap of ruins, with no infrastructure, and there was no instant communication today. Despite all its conceptual flaws, the 20 years of Western presence have slightly improved the living conditions and, above all, the freedom and interdependence of Afghans.
Whether this is structured into real opposition to the group is another story. Russian Chancellor Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that a pocket of resistance was being organized in the mythical Panjshir Valley, a picturesque mountainous region 100 km northwest of Kabul.
“The Taliban still do not control all of Afghanistan,” said Lavrov, whose country has been careful to open contacts with fundamentalists, unlike China, which has given more explicit support to the radicals.
According to him, the resistance is led by one of the vice-presidents of the overthrown regime, Amrullah Saleh, and Ahmad Massoud, the son of the “lion of Panjshir”, the greatest national hero of those who fought the Taliban in the years. 1990, Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Saleh, who calls himself the country’s de facto acting president, posted words of support for the protesters on Twitter, urging them to bring Afghan flags to the streets.
The problem for him is similar to the one that plagued Massoud’s father, who was killed in a cinematic action, in which terrorists posed as reporters and blew everything up with the trapped camera in a two-day interview. before September 11, 2001.
The Panjshir never fell into the hands of the Taliban, being the base of the Northern Alliance, a group that mixed ethnic minority tribes such as the Tajiks and Uzbeks, as opposed to the fundamentalist majority base, the Pashtuns (40 % of 37 million Afghans).
During the Taliban years, around 10% of the territory was held by these opponents, but the government was hit from Kabul. In fact, without September 11, they would probably have been wiped out by the Taliban.
Moreover, as an exit from the government of the escaped president, Saleh’s leadership is questionable. In this sense, it is more important to know what will be the movement of powerful warlords like Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek who commanded the defenses of Kabul and disappeared the day the Taliban arrived.
Meanwhile, the Taliban are building their government, based on consultations with leaders such as former President Hamid Karzai and former Chancellor Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday. Even Ghani, exiled in Abu Dhabi, has expressed interest in his return.
The West is playing the part, and with the US disengagement and the European stance of viewing the ruling Taliban as a fait accompli, the way seems open for the group. “It is the most important geopolitical event since the annexation of Crimea [pela Rússia] in 2014 “, declared the head of the diplomacy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, affirming that it was necessary to negotiate with the fundamentalists.
After declaring the return of the Islamic Emirate from Afghanistan and the reintroduction of Sharia, Islamic law, it remains to be seen how this will play out in practice. Moderation and Sharia do not mix well: the strict reading by the Taliban of the Muslim legal text has led to acts of barbarism committed against opponents, minorities and, above all, women.
Although spokespersons like Zabihullah Mujahid have declared that there will be women’s freedom in the country, the gamble “within the limits of Sharia” repeated by him and others generates justified mistrust.
And then there is the lingering crisis at Kabul airport, the scene of at least 12 deaths since Sunday – including the symbol of the failure of the American withdrawal decreed by President Joe Biden in April, the Afghans who clung take off from the cargo ships and died in the fall from the sky.
The departure of the forces, which ended on the 31st but could extend until the end of the evacuations, was the trigger for the Taliban offensive, which in two weeks took hold of the whole country. Biden washed his hands and defended his decision, which also ratified an agreement between the United States and the Taliban concluded by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
On Thursday, the Taliban surrounded the airport and prevented access to Afghan civilians without passports or visas. The US forces, which are protecting the embassy transferred to the area and organizing the evacuation, have lodged a complaint – although the day before NATO (Western military alliance) imposed the same restriction.
As a result, there are lines and scenes of refugee camps in the middle of the capital. Western embassies have reported evacuating around 8,000 people on military flights since Sunday, but the situation remains uncertain.